Ze Frank on Creativity

Thanks to 43 Folders for the link to this one: An Interview with Ze Frank. For a year, starting in March 2006, Ze Frank produced a daily video called The Show. I found episodes at times thought provoking or enlightening but always funny. Several episodes merited my showing them to high school students (see the one with Condoleeza Rice’s magic satchel).

What impressed me about Ze’s show was his quick paced witty dialogue. How’d he create something this good every day? I can’t imagine the pressure to produce.

Ze explains the creation process this way:

There’s this thing I try to do that I call “brain surfing.” Do you know the technique “morphological synthesis”?

There’s a really beautiful book by James L. Adams called Conceptual Blockbusting. It’s a book that was written in the ’70s on creativity. The idea is, you just start with a concept that’s immediate to you. I mean “immediate” in that you have some kind of direct emotional connection to it in that moment. And it can be as simple as a word. Maybe somebody pissed you off in line, or you’re worried that your toe is broken. And you just start with that and begin to associate things with it. It’s not really free association, so it’s not just anything that comes to mind. But you tell little stories to yourself that move you away from that initial concept.

So if it’s your toe being broken, you start thinking to yourself, well, what would happen if something else was broken and you tried to drive a car? Then you move away from that and you think about the worst car race ever. Now you’ve moved into a demolition derby. And you just sort of work in circles. At different points you stop and relate wherever you are back to the original concept. And just play. Sometimes I write these things down on paper, and sometimes I just sit there and do them in my head. But for me, it’s a nice little play zone where you can find very weird and silly things.

Reminds me a bit of the brainstorming techniques I learned in middle school. And I think “brain surfing” has cool implications for students.

More about Ze:

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